SOCIAL Protection Minister Joan Burton is defending the controversial cut to the respite care grant in the Budget.
The €325 cut, bringing the annual payment down from €1,700 to €1,375, has emerged as the most contentious of the Budget, and carers will stage a protest outside the Dail later today.
Ms Burton said the Government chose to protect weekly payments to pensioners, the disabled, and carers, as well as the dole.
It is understood ministers opted to reduce the respite care grant rather than cut the half-rate carer's allowance.
Ms Burton said the cut of almost 20pc brings the respite care grant back down to 2006 levels, telling RTE Radio: "I would like to be able to pay more but the fact is the Government must get the finances of the country and the economy of the country right."
She added that the Budget is about “getting people back to work and about getting the economy back on its feet.”